How To Build And Refine Team Culture
Effective, efficient executives take responsibility for the return on investment (ROI) their teams generate, because doing so benefits the entire organization.
Getting discretionary effort from team members begins with genuine concern for them and their lives –– an approach that previous generations of executives might have found a little too touchy-feely for their liking. Some still do. But during the past generation or so, something unusual has happened: executives have evolved from being bosses to being team members.
Oh, they’re still in charge, but smart leaders realize they get further by forming partnerships with their employees.
Business has always been a collaborative endeavor, and today it must become even more so to facilitate efficient execution and greater productivity.
Most of how your team culture develops boils down to what you do as a leader. The easier you make it for your team to excel, the more likely it will. Remove the obstacles to your team’s success. encourage teamwork, empower everyone and emphasize accountability and root out any internal limitations.
Business is becoming more complicated, competitive and unpredictable by the day. Those in leadership positions must be constantly aware of this reality, because the decisions made affect the lives and careers of everyone on the team and sometimes influence the fate of the entire organization.
Organizations often grow top-heavy because leaders won’t let go of old responsibilities when they take on new ones –– even when the old ones are money pits. Aside from an unwillingness to abandon unworkable initiatives, leaders create unnecessary complexity when they
- Overthink business situations.
- Overengineer products and services.
- Lose focus on what truly matters.
- Avoid handling important issues.
- Repeatedly reinvent the process “wheel.”
- Aimlessly chase unclear goals.
- Fear that simplifying means eliminating jobs.
Here are four tools to use to simplify your life.
1. Streamline workflow processes. Constantly tweak your workflow by trying new things, clearing your team’s path, slashing bureaucracy, replacing broken and underperforming “parts” and occasionally overhauling the whole work engine if necessary.
2. Apply simple rules to business situations. Cleaning up your processes accelerates business wonderfully, resulting in greater simplicity and greater profits.
3. Cut unnecessary positions. Simplifying may mean you no longer need as many people to do the job as you once did. Decrease head count through transfers, attrition, retirement and lateral promotions.
4. Include a sunset clause for all projects and initiatives. Make the end of an endeavor part of its natural life cycle. Plan for that ending, and when it comes time to shut down, do so — unless there’s an overriding reason to continue.
As you build and refine team culture, you’ll consistently have trouble challenging your best and brightest enough to keep them engaged with their work. What they really need is purpose: a chance to excel at something that matters. Give them the opportunity to prove they can excel. Here’s how:
- Touch base regularly with your top employees, allowing them open access to you.
- Offer them tasks with a real chance of failure.
- Keep them busy. Pile your employee’s plates full of a variety of tasks, so when one gets boring, they can jump to another.
- Help them fall in love with the process of marketing, coding, writing, speaking or whatever their job entails, and they’ll never be bored.
In today’s sped-up business environment, style is less likely than ever to triumph over substance. Results — not just staying busy — define productivity, while acting as a benchmark for new efforts. And producing results is at the heart of what it means to be efficient and effective.
Move forward with positive energy, developing the talents of your team members so you’ll inevitably enhance performance. No matter how well you run your own team, you’ll have weaknesses that can undermine your strengths if you’re not careful.
Maximize strengths rather than focusing on weaknesses, but at the same time, you should know your weaknesses so you can work around them — and root them out whenever possible. Follow this process:
- Conduct a classic SWOT analysis. List your team’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Dig deeper than the obvious, and consider your options thoroughly.
- Consult your team. As a leader, you may have different ideas of what constitutes a weakness than your team does, so ask your people to contribute their ideas.
- Audit the big picture. Don’t ignore the big picture in favor of minor issues or get caught up in the daily minutiae, even briefly.
- Look around often. Make sure an unexpected change or threat doesn’t run you down.
- Respond well to feedback. Don’t blow off criticisms, constructive or otherwise, especially when they come from within. Rather, invite them.
- Look at everything. Weaknesses are not necessarily obvious; they might not even look like weaknesses at first.
Once you’ve conducted your SWOT exercise and examined team performance, you may find you have little or nothing to worry about. But that doesn’t mean you can rest on your laurels. Note not only where you are and where you’ve been but where you want to be in the near future.
Motivate your team with Creativity and loyalty
What can you do to motivate your employees? Helping them help themselves by devoting themselves more fully to their careers is a win/win situation. There’s no altruism here: fully engaged employees, who are passionate about their work, keep team and organizational performance trending steadily upward.
Truth is, you can’t really motivate people to do anything; they have to motivate themselves. But you can provide incentives and an environment people find motivating, so they’re inspired to contribute their discretionary efforts. It’s as easy as ABC and DEF:
- A = Analyze. Everyone’s different, so determine what each person wants in return for extra discretionary effort. Give them all the opportunity to profit when the company does. For example, offer flexible scheduling, raises, bonuses, conference attendance, part-time telecommuting, certificates or pats on the back — whatever it takes.
- B = Balance. Your team members need a good work/ life balance to remain productive. Make sure everyone gets the rest and the breaks they need — from daily coffee to their annual vacations — and they’ll take care of you.
- C = Communicate. Explain what you need everyone to do and why — clearly, plainly and honestly. Keep the lines open for whenever a team member needs assistance.
- D = Direction. You’ll see better results when you strategically align individual and team goals with their organizational counterparts.
- E = Expect. Let your people know what you expect from them as unambiguously as possible. But if someone discovers a better way of getting from here to there, let them take it — as long as it’s ethical and legal.
- F = Facilitate. When your team sees you out there fighting for them by providing the assistance they need to improve, they can’t help but want to do their best for you.
Allowing your team to unleash their creativity on your collective business problems is also an excellent way to motivate them to donate their discretionary effort to the organization.
To combine creativity with your work processes, set aside time for creativity, study other disciplines, listen to your team’s ideas and advice, and don’t punish failure.
Emphasize Continuous Improvement
Once you’ve built and shaped your team members into a vehicle for true productivity, focus on finding ways to optimize their performance through further growth. Effective, efficient execution is not a fixed destination; it is a moving target that can only be hit consistently if you and your team are seeking ways to constantly improve.
Growing together as a team and growing to become a team creates cohesion –– with individual team members interlocking smoothly into one efficient entity. A mature team develops features that naturally boost productivity. You can facilitate this process and avoid problems by understanding not only how you think but also how your team members think.
Among other things, a quality leader accepts both credit and blame when it’s due. Leaders act on constructive criticism without overreacting to the pain that accompanies it, because they know it can offer insight into where growth is needed.
Growth occurs on all levels in an organization –– or at least it should. While you have to center growth on your team to best benefit the organization, individual growth at the leadership level and cross-team development also affect team growth.
No matter where you stand in an organization, you can always improve your game. Practice these tips for accepting and acting on constructive criticism: listen more and talk less, ask for specifics (an example or suggestions for what to do about it), take corrective action and follow up.